It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you without a dope place to travel to. Okay, so I am no Rakim, but it has been a while since I wrote a travel blog. Well, the Invisible Fat Lady is back with a historical trip to Montgomery, Alabama. Yaaaaas!
As some of you that follow my blog know, my husband and I recently moved to Birmingham, AL. Never, ever ever in my big thighed life did I expect to live in Alabama! However, when the opportunity knocks, you have to jump in. Since I can write from anywhere, it was only fair to support my hubby in following his career goals. So what do I think so far? Not too shabby! Who knew Alabama, specifically Bham was poppin?
Well, you didn’t stop what you’re doing to read about my likes or dislikes of the Magic City. We are supposed to be chatting about my trip to Montgomery. Don’t get too excited, we took a day trip which meant we had to drive down and back(two hours each way) on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I read about the new Legacy Museum and the corresponding National Memorial For Peace and Justice that just opened and I had to see them for myself.
For a total of $10 per person, we purchased a combo pack of tickets that allowed us access to
both attractions. Of course we tried to be all tech savvy and purchase our tickets in the car, thinking we could just show the bar code on the phone to gain access. WRONG! There we were, looking at each other, neither armed with a portable printer. Well, damn! Luckily, the lady at the box office/gift shop was nice enough to print out our tickets for us. It only took navigating through a long corridor to find the box office. It was actually a little area that used to be used as a gateway to moves slaves from one holding area to another. It has been renovated and gentrified to house several shops and restaurants in this era.
Once we got our tickets, we walked back over to the museum, which is less than a block away, only to have water poured on my head. I don’t mean literally, but that’s what it felt like. The night before we left, I charged up my Canon SLR and was ready for a day of great picture taking. Well, The Legacy Museum had other plans. You could certainly take your camera inside, because they didn’t want to inconvenience you and make you walk back to your car. However, you were not about to use said camera inside the museum. I had 3 pictures that I needed to get, one of the entry wall, one of the jars of sand collected at the lynching sites all over the south, and one of the sculpture on the way out. Just three measly pictures would have satisfied me, but I was denied.
Security Guards be like…
Sorry Guys, no pics of the inside of the museum and since I had my petty boots on, I didn’t take any of the outside either. That will show them. Anyway, the tour was self-guided and it didn’t take that long. Give yourself 45 minutes to an hour depending on how busy it is. The displays were ok, but I prefer the ones in the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham. They were totally different so it is not a comparison in that manner, just the overall feel of the place was different.
The theme of the museum is ‘From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration’. The most intense part for me was seeing the jars of soil that were meticulously collected from each documented site of a lynching in the South. The most astonishing thing was seeing so many jars with Unknown listed as the name of the person lynched. It amazes me the amount of hate displayed there. On a positive note, I saw a lot of families touring the museum. People of all races, many from other countries, learning about our country’s shameful past and present. (Remember the Mass Incarceration part?)
When we left there, we loaded back into the truck, after a brief walk around the area to see what we could see. I found it amusing to find the Hank Williams Museum just steps away. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you the historical significance of the location of the museum. It is housed in a restored building that once served as a warehouse/holding cell for slaves between the time they disembarked from ships and were sold at the market, which is only a few blocks away.
Once we left that area, we traveled over to what I deemed one of the greatest memorials I have ever experienced. I say experienced, because that is exactly what you do there. The National Memorial For Peace and Justice is a sight to behold. Thankfully, the guards allowed pictures there. Starting out along the entry of the walkway, you are greeted by a beautiful quote from one of today’s most important writers, Toni Morrison. Continuing up the slight incline you reach a breathtaking sculpture representing the enslaved ancestors. I was speechless as I viewed the art installation created by West African artist, Kwame Akoto-Bamfo. The attention to detail is evident as you view each representative down to the braids of one woman’s hair. Just beautiful and sad at the same time.
As you continue to walk up the pathway, the wall on the right continues to get taller and taller, with inscriptions leading you along the way. Then you get to a stopping point where you can look over the wall to inspect the lawn down below. The view is stunning, but you continue because you must. The first sight of the monuments is at eye level. You’ll notice the pattern throughout the monument of the name of the county and state where the lynching took place, followed by the names of the people who were brutally murdered, and the dates of the lynching.
Some are individual instances, while others appear to have been a massacre. We counted on one structure at least 17 people all killed on the same day in the same county, but the most unnerving thing was they were all listed as Unknown! I can’t tell you the amount of pain this brought to my soul. Imagine families being dragged out and murdered in the streets for no reason. They didn’t even know the people’s names, just their race.
The memorial is well structured throughout. As the incline increases, so do the structures. They move from eye level to rising overhead at a slow steady pace. You will be entranced at this level, but I will warn you to watch your step. On the structures that are hanging above you, the name of the county and state are etched into the bottom, causing you to look up. Although the designers have installed frames directly underneath the structures, you will be distracted looking up and may run into one. I witnessed a lady doing just that. You have been warned.
The next corridor has more structures, but also a display along a wall that tells the stories of several families and individuals and why they were lynched. There is a peaceful water wall placed there to honor the dead. From there it continues. It goes on and on and on. The path leads you around to what I call the garden, where the structures are now laying to rest on the earth, in the same fashion as a coffin. It truly resembled a graveyard. Once you reach the end of this path, you are greeted by a tranquility park, set there to honor civil rights pioneer Ida B. Wells. It is a place for peaceful reflection.
Just on the other side of the peaceful little corner, there is a pathway that takes you back around to the start of the tour. Here you will find more sculptures that depict racial violence from both the past and present. On your way out don’t forget to read the poem Invocation by Elizabeth Alexander that reflects on the past, but gives hope for the future.
I couldn’t believe how many people were killed in this horrific fashion, not to mention their murders going unpunished. I want you all to stop and think about this. How can this country ever heal if we can’t get justice for the blood that has spilled? This memorial is a good step in the right direction and I applaud EJI for sanctioning a memorial worthy of the mall in DC.
I encourage every man, woman, and child who is drawing breath in their bodies to take the trip to Montgomery and see this memorial. We must start the healing process in order for things to get better for ALL of us. That’s all for now. And remember…